KEARNEY — Waylon W. Werner-Bassen, board president of OutNebraska and co-producer of the Prairie Pride Film Festival, wanted to keep the feeling of the 10th annual event as close to a traditional film festival as possible, but present it online.
“We tried to mirror our usual festival,” he said in an interview from Lincoln. “We wanted it to be like a festival and not just a pay-per-view experience.”
The films will debut at specific times starting today with opportunities to watch the films through 11:30 p.m. Sunday. The individual films can be accessed for $7 each or $35 for all screenings in the entire festival. To learn more about the festival visit OutNebraska.org or search for the group on Facebook.
“Traditionally, for the last 10 years, the festival has been in Lincoln at UNL,” Werner-Bassen said. “Last year was the first year that we did a smaller version and took it to Kearney to The World Theatre. That was a nice experience for us. Since we’re dealing with the effects of COVID-19 we have moved our festival online to a platform called Xerb.TV. This allows us to have the main festival shown all though Nebraska and be accessible to everyone instead of just those who are able to make it to Lincoln.”
Presented by OutNebraska, the festival includes six screenings of films that provide a starting point for conversations about LGBTQ+ culture. OutNebraska’s webpage describes the Prairie Pride Film Festival as a way to educate, advocate and celebrate the culture through community events.
Part of the strength of the previous festivals included a chance for people to gather and watch the films together. Werner-Bassen noted that while the COVID-19 pandemic restricts social gatherings, presenting the festival online offers opportunities to contribute to message boards about the films, another way to build a sense of community.
“How do you keep your community when everyone is in isolation?” he asked. “We have some talk-back panels that are happening this week prior to the festival. The platform itself does have discussion boards. If people have questions or want to talk with other people about the film, they’re able to post their thoughts.”
The festival includes national and international films. All the feature films were made in the United States. The short films came to the festival from all over the world.
“Going to the movie theater is such a community practice that it is odd to do it virtually,” Werner-Bassen said. “We thought it was important to still get LGBTQ cinema out there, especially new films that haven’t been seen yet. This is not a replacement for the in-person festival, but at least we’re still able to be visible and get that art out there.”
As part of the festival, some of the filmmakers will be available online to answer questions.
“We’re hoping — fingers crossed — that the festival will be as interactive as possible,” Werner-Bassen said.
The subject matter of the Prairie Pride Film Festival can often cause audience members to feel uncomfortable. Werner-Bassen considers those feelings as a good place to start a conversation.
“That’s one of the main reasons we do this festival, to get another way to have conversations, some times uncomfortable conversations,” he said. “Film is good at doing that, at making us ask questions. At the same time it helps us introduce new perspectives we might not have seen before. Two of the films are documentaries. One focuses on the struggles and experiences of four high school trans athletes trying to play sports in high school. That’s a type of film that takes rural athletes and puts a face to that story. People don’t always have that when they just learn about it on the news.”
The short film entries in the festival might feel more controversial, Werner-Bassen said. The nature of short films requires a big impact in a small amount of time.
“These films might push the boundaries for some of our Nebraska residents, but there’s nothing that is X-rated or anything like that,” he said.